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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Indelible Grace

I remember the first time I was introduced to the music of Indelible Grace. I was a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and was taking a class called the Worshipping Church led by Chip Stam. He played a few songs by the group. In particular, I remember Poor Sinner Dejected by Fear from their album titled Pilgrim Days.

The song had an immediate impact. The lyrics were theologically rich and compelling. Verse 2 says:

Come just as thou art, with thy woe. Fall down at the feet of the
Lamb. He will not, he cannot say, go, but surely will take out thy
stain. A fountain is opened for sin, and thousands its virtues have
proved. He’ll take thee and plunge thee therein, and wash thee from filth in his blood.
I knew I had to investigate more of this music by Indelible Grace. What I found was a group of talented artists, talented singers, talented musicians, and talented authors who have collaborated in many projects with the goal of making old hymns more assessable for a new generation.

The goal of the musicians who put out the Indelible CD’s is to set theologically rich old hymns to new music hoping that the hymns will be reclaimed by a generation who have in many respects neglected old treasures.

This fall, Indelible Grace released its 6th album (counting Your King Has Come), titled Wake Thy Slumbering Children, and it is a success along with the previous albums. My current favorites on the latest release are: O, Help My Unbelief, Abide in Me, Beneath the Cross of Jesus, Give Reviving, and All Must Be Well.

Many of the albums have hymns which you have heard and sung before, provided you have spent some seasons in a local church that still uses the hymns. For example, on Indelible Grace I you find songs like And Can It Be and I Need Thee Every Hour, and on the album Pilgrim Days you find How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds and On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand. But you will also find hymns that you have never heard before like Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul and Sometimes A Light Surprises.

The familiarity of the hymns will surely be conditioned upon your denominational background, my own is a mixture of Methodist and Baptist. I find that many of the recorded hymns by Indelible Grace are hymns still present in the Baptist Hymnal, but are typically the songs not sung anymore in Baptist Churches, even the traditional one in which I am a member. For example, I was not even aware of hymns like Jesus I My Cross I Have Taken, Jesus I Come, For All the Saints, and Come Ye Disconsolate.

I find though in the later albums that most, if not all, of the hymns were unfamiliar to me previously. I had never heard any of the songs recorded on Wake Thy Slumbering Children and only two on Beams of Heaven. Nevertheless both albums are exceptional in quality and devotion. You certainly do not have to be familiar with them to be blessed by them.

You can order Indelible Grace CD’s online, located at In addition to purchasing wonderful CD’s, you can buy a hymn book that includes many of the songs recorded on the albums plus many more. The site includes many articles about hymn writers and the importance of hymns to the church.

Some of the musicians that make up Indelible Grace travel around the country. They play in different venues. They play at Seminaries, Conferences, Churches, and even in homes. You can find their schedule here.

Check them out and pass their work around. Invite them to your church. They are truly a blessing.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Building Bridges: Southern Baptists & Calvinism

The Building Bridges Conference was recently held at Ridgecrest November 26-28. Here were the speakers and topics:

Session - Calvinism and SBC Leadership: Key Findings and Evangelistic Implications; Nov. 26, 2007 By Ed Stetzer

Session - The Historical Record; Nov. 26, 2007 By David Dockery & Tom Nettles

Session - Calvinism: A Cause for Rejoicing, A Cause for Concern; Nov. 27, 2007 by Malcolm Yarnell & Jeff Noblit

Session - The Atonement: Its Design, Nature and Extent; Nov. 27, 2007 by Sam Waldron & David Nelson

Session - Theological Stereotypes: Let's Be Fair and Honest with Each Other; Nov. 27, 2007 by
Chuck Lawless & Nathan Finn

Session - Election and Calling: A Biblical/Theological Study; Nov. 27, 2007 by Ken Keathley & Greg Wealty

Worship Sessions - James Merritt, Albert Mohler, J.D. Greear, Steven Wade, Donald Whitney

Panel Part 1 (Akin, Finn, Yarnell, Ascol, Nelson, Keathley, & Welty)

Panel Part 2 (Akin, Finn, Yarnell, Ascol, Nelson, Keathley, & Welty)

Session - Working Together to Make Christ Known; Nov. 28, 2007 by Daniel Akin & Tom Ascol

The first speaker in the session is a non-Calvinist Southern Baptist and the second speaker is a Calvinist Southern Baptist. You can find the audio of this conference at three places. You can find it at Lifeway (with the exception of James Merritt, Albert Mohler, J.D. Greear, Steven Wade, and Donald Whitney messages). You can also find them at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Chapel Webpage (just scroll down). You also can find them on ITunes under Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, messages 47-67.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Karis Noel

Our baby doctor showing Naomi and I Karis just as she was delivered by C-Section.

A joyous daddy holding Karis for the first time in the operating room.

Grandma holding Karis while two sisters curiously look on.

We are just about to take baby Karis home from the hospital.

Baby Karis in the hospital.


I thank God for my beautiful family. The Morrison family expanded by another daughter. This past Monday, my wife gave birth to Karis Noel. Both are doing extremely well, and we are so thankful. Our other daughters, Lydia and Chloe are also adjusting well. We would like to thank all of you who were praying for our family during the pregnancy. God has answered so many prayers.

Mommy and Karis

Lydia and Karis

Daddy and Karis

Chloe and Karis

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good Armed Forces Stories

Please check out these two stories (one is lengthy & one is brief) from men who serve in the U.S. military. They are both emotionally moving. The first is of a soldier, John Gebhardt, who comforts a young Iraqi girl whose entire family was executed. The second is of a Marine Captain, Richard Stinnett, who honored the memory of a slain Marine soldier who gave his life in Iraq.

Continue to lift these men and women who serve in military and their families up in prayer.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Good Day of Worship

This past Lord's Day was particularly sweet. I preached on "The Woman Who Fears the Lord," from Proverbs 31:10-31 as a part of a larger series titled, "Biblical Manhood, Biblical Womanhood, and the Family." We had a great crowd of people in attendance, and I had the great honor of baptizing a young man named Caleb. I pray for more gatherings like this one.

The Laying on of Hands

On Fifth Sunday evenings, I take questions from the congregation concerning Biblical issues, Christian theology, Christian history, and ethics.

One of the questions I received concerned the laying on of hands. Here was the question: Why do we not have laying on of hands when a person is saved? Is this not a commandment that goes along with Baptism?

I admit that I have not given the laying on of hands issue the attention it deserves. I do not recall much being said about the issue in my seminary training. And my only experience with the laying on of hands has been deacon ordination, my own ordination into pastoral ministry, and for healing in exceptional cases.

So in preparation for answering this question, I solidified my thinking on this issue, although a few questions remain.

In the New Testament there appears to be five major uses of the laying on of hands.

1. To heal the sick/lame
Both Jesus and the Apostles practiced the laying on of hands for this purpose. In Mark 6:5, Jesus was said to have laid his hands on some of the sick residents of Nazareth and they were healed. In Luke 13:13, Jesus lays his hands on a deformed woman, and her body was straightened. And in Acts 28:8, we find the apostle Paul laying his hands on one named Publius who was sick, and he too was healed. Paul himself was the recipient of the laying on of hands by Ananias in order to have his vision restored (Acts 9).

2. To bless children
In Matthew 19:15, we find Jesus laying his hands on children who were brought to him. It appears, although it is not explicit, that the parents wanted Jesus' blessing on the children. It does not seem to be a sickness issue here.

3. To set apart specific Christians for a special task.
In Acts 6, the Hellenists widows were being neglected in the distribution. So the Apostles suggested that the church select seven men full of wisdom and of the Spirit to fulfill this task. The church accepted the suggestion, and after the seven were selected, the Apostles laid their hands on them and prayed for them.

We also have another example found in Acts 13:1-4 where the Holy Spirit directed the church at Antioch to appoint Paul and Barnabas for a specific work. The work is not named, but it becomes evident that the work was gospel ministry for they depart and begin to share the gospel in various cities.

4. To receive a specific gift from the Holy Spirit
From texts like 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 we can see incidents where elders laid their hands on a Christian in order to receive a gift(s). Timothy is reminded not to neglect his gift which was given to him after prophecy and the laying on of hands.

5. To receive the Holy Spirit
In at least two events the laying on of hands resulted in believers receiving the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:14-17, we are told that Samaria had received the word of God. So Peter and John were dispatched to the region. Peter and John found believers there who had been baptized, but they had not received the Holy Spirit so they laid their hands on them and the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 19, Paul finds some disciples (of Christ?). Upon his investigation he learns that none of them have received the Holy Spirit and they have only received the baptism of John. They were baptized into Jesus' baptism and Paul laid his hands on them and prayed for them. After this they received the Holy Spirit.

This last category is the most perplexing. Why did the Samaritans not receive the Holy Spirit at conversion? The second act could be interpreted that these individuals were disciples of John and not Jesus. Perhaps the answer to the Samaritan question was that God wanted the Apostles to see the the advance of the gospel firsthand and see the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon them firsthand considering the strained relations these people groups had.

Then there is the question: why was it visibly apparent in Apostolic times when someone received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 19)? The answer of many charismatic groups that it is still apparent through the speaking of tongues at the second blessing is surely false because Scripture makes clear that everyone does not receive tongues (1 Cor 12). The answer here will again only be speculation.

Going back to the original question...

Upon investigation the answer is: we do not lay hands on someone when he or she is saved with regularity because it is not commanded in Scripture. Baptism is commanded. Communion is commanded. The Laying on of hands is not commanded.

The only specific instruction that I could find given in Scripture concerning the laying on of hands is given to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:22) when Paul instructs him not to hastily lay hands on others.

My investigation leads me to believe that God permits freedom for churches to practice this in diverse ways. Since Jesus, the Apostles, elders, and churches practiced the laying on of hands, surely churches today should as well. Leaning upon the examples we have in the Bible, churches should institute this practice with more regularity where appropriate.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mohler interviews Page

On September 18, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary interviewed Dr. Frank Page, Pastor of 1st Baptist Church, Taylors, South Carolina and President of the Southern Baptist Convention on his weekday radio program.

During the interview, Mohler asked Page the following question (basically word for word):

Pastoring in South Carolina, how do you deal with the culture and gospel issue?

In his answer, Page made the following remark, "South Carolina is the capital of cultural Christianity which has led many people straight to hell."

Dr. Page was addressing the real problem that exists in many parts of the South (as Mohler remarked) where most people view themselves as being saved by virtue of many reasons except for the biblical one, namely ongoing repentance of sins and faith in Jesus Christ.

Serving in South Carolina, I find this comment to be true indeed. In too many conversations, people tell me that they were saved 10, 15, 20, 25 years ago, and for 8, 13, 18, 22 years they have been living like they have no relationship with Jesus, like the presence of the Holy Spirit is not in them, they have forsaken the people of God, and they have an obvious love affair with the world.

And it is so hard for individuals like this to come to an understanding that they might very well not be saved because some pastor or church has convinced them falsely.

One of the ways I try to battle this cultural trend in my own preaching is repeatedly reminding the congregation that our assurance of salvation is that:

we repented of our sins last night,
we trust Jesus today,
we pray to him regularly,
the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident in our own lives
we hate sin
we love Jesus, and so on.

My prayer is that we will not produce another generation of deceived men and women.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Selective Hermeneutic

Living in the South, especially South Carolina, one encounters both explicit and implicit racism particularly towards Black Americans.

One of the most common ways it is lightly expressed is when someone is telling you a story, and they always make sure that if one of the participants in the story is black, they make it clear to you.

Some of it is innocent (I am in no way dismissing it), but they sincerely do not mean anything by it. However, often times they do.

Race relations have a long way to go in the south.

From time to time I will apply some Scriptural point to race relations. For example when I addressed marriage from 2 Corinthians 6.14 I make the point that the only prohibition made when considering a spouse is that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. I will go on to make the point that interracial marriages are not forbidden.

I have been challenged to my face on this particular issue. Often the person will say, Jason you have two daughters, would you be pleased if they married two black men? My response is usually twofold. First, I say that if the young black man loves Jesus and is following after him, then I have no objections. Second, I say that hypothetically if I did have a problem, it would be my issue and not my daughter's or the young man's.

The usual arguments given by those against interracial marriages goes as following:

1. Some will say it will be too difficult because both partners will feel the stress of bringing two different cultures together. Furthermore, it is argued that you are placing a burden on the children of a mixed marriage.

More and more the stresses of the children are not legitimate in cities where children of all different racial and ethnic backgrounds are growing up together, and the issue is really a non-issue. However in rural areas and small towns, the problem is not the children born from mixed marriages but the racist attitudes in children who come from racist homes.

2. Less frequently is the so called biblical argument that races should not mix. This arises from texts where Israel was prohibited from marrying Canaanites (Deut 7:3).

It is generally agreed though that the biblical prohibition put upon Israel against marrying foreigners has nothing to do with their skin color or ethnicity, but has everything to do with the God they worshipped (see Deut 7:4). This principle clearly comes out in the New Testament as well as I have already referenced above.

Nevertheless, there are some in the church who will still make this argument from the Old Testament.

What really frustrates me is when some of these very ones who argue from the OT against interracial marriage will argue that the standard for tithing is the NT. While I agree that we should look to the NT's teaching concerning tithing, the OT should not be neglected in the pursuit of finding God's will on the issue.

I find it convenient when people in the church use this kind of selective hermeneutic to get from the Bible exactly what they want.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Baptism, Communion, & Local Church Membership

A debate has been circling the blogs regarding the relationship between Baptism, Communion, and Local Church Membership. It began as far as I can tell when John Piper responded through the Desiring God Blog to the change made in Wayne Grudem's systematic theology textbook concerning baptism. Previously, Grudem wrote in favor of allowing both credobaptistic and paedobaptistic views to be allowed within a single denomination and its local churches. However, he has personally changed his view. The compromise within a local church to allow both seems to be too great for the credo-baptist.

The meat of Piper's response comes when he says:
When I weigh the kind of imperfection involved in tolerating an invalid baptism because some of our members are deeply persuaded that it is biblically valid, over against the kind of imperfection involved in saying to a son or daughter of the living God, “You are excluded from the local church,” my biblical sense is that the latter is more unthinkable than the former. The local church is a visible expression of the invisible, universal, body of Christ. To exclude from it is virtually the same as excommunication. And no serious church takes excommunication as an invitation to attend the church down the street.
You can find Grudem's response to Piper's here. It was both humorous and humble when Grudem said that his own wife found Piper's argument more persuasive. For a more comprehensive and detailed report of Piper's own understanding on this issue you can research these resources.

Since this foray, others have weighed in on the discussion. Over at 9 Marks Blog, you can find two entries by Mark Dever here and here. You can also find two good posts regarding this issue from a historical perspective written by Aaron Menikoff (Part 1 & Part 2).

In Menikoff's articles he references John Bunyan, author of of the famed Pilgrim's Progress, who made significant arguments why paedo-baptists should not be barred from the membership or communion of a local baptist church titled, Differences in Water Baptism No Bar to Communion (1673).

Sam Storms has weighed in with an article asking how these men (Piper, Dever, Mohler, Duncan) can really be Together for the Gospel if Dever and Mohler would not permit Duncan to receive communion at their church (because they do not believe infant baptism constitutes a real baptism and one must receive believer's baptism before one receives communion). Meanwhile, Ligon Duncan has stated that his response will be forthcoming.

My own view is fairly traditional within modern baptist circles. The church I pastor requires baptism by immersion after the evidence of genuine faith in Jesus Christ in order to become a member of the church and to participate in communion. However, we do not police the elements in such a way that a visiting Presbyterian could not participate although I would make it clear from the beginning before the elements are passed out what our church's view is.

Like Grudem's wife though, I find Piper and Bunyan's arguments to be weighty and biblical. I also find it contradictory to prohibit a Presbyterian from communion at the church I pastor, but would allow him to preach at the church I pastor, which I have done. This past summer I invited both a Presbyterian and Methodist to preach while I was out of town.

My hope is that this current debate will spark much fruit from future and current Ph.D students who will try to tackle these issues afresh in our day. Until then, I will be examining the more thorough writings that have been offered by Christians past.

Update: Ligon Duncan has begun his post series on why he, Piper, Mohler, and Dever can be Together for the Gospel but not together on various other doctrines.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

SBC Witness Interviews Dr. Rainer

Over at SBC Witness, Nathan Akin interviews Dr. Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources. In the first installment of this interview, Dr. Rainer answers questions about upcoming projects from B&H Publishing, ongoing research on alcohol, calvinism, and church polity which will be released in future studies, and how his past has helped him for his present job.

In the second installment, Dr. Rainer will answer questions dealing SBC issues and will give advice for young pastors.

Reasons for the Resurgence of Reformed Doctrine

Dr. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has just finished his series titled, "Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?" Dever lists ten reasons for the present day resurgence in Reformed Doctrines among evangelicals. The following are his 10 reasons for Calvinistic growth:

Charles Spurgeon, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Banner of Truth Trust, Evangelism Explosion by D. James Kennedy, Southern Baptist Convention Inerrancy Controversy, Presbyterian Church in America, J.I. Packer's book, "Knowing God," R.C. Sproul & John MacArthur, John Piper, the rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism.

You can find the entire series here. Over the past seven years my theology has drifted toward reformed doctrine. When I began my studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in January 2001, I believed in the sinfulness of man and the eternal security of a Christian believer. I came from a Southern Baptist Church, with a very faithful and biblical preacher, who is not reformed in his soteriology. So terms like unconditional election, irresistible grace, and limited atonement were not preached either for or against (to my knowledge).

So my first introduction to reformed doctrines was at Southern Seminary through the teaching of particular teachers, teacher recommendations of books, and student conversations. It was at that point that I learned of Dr. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Since my introduction to the preaching and books by Piper, my drift toward the reformed doctrines has grown significantly. My understanding of man's sinfulness has grown. I have moved from believing in the sinfulness of all men, to the total depravity of mankind. I have moved from using phrases like "once saved, always saved" to "but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Mark 13:13)." I have come to believe in doctrines like unconditional election and irresistible grace as articulated by John Piper in particular.

I am still laboring over the doctrine of definite or limited atonement in all its preciseness. But in conclusion, I would fit into Dever's list under the categories of John Piper and the SBC Inerrancy Controversy due to its push to focus Baptists on the true and faithful teachings of the Bible and its fruits that are evident now at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why are College Men and Women Having Sex?

A recent survey conducted by researchers from the University of Texas questioned college aged students about their motivations for having sex. The top five responses men gave were:

1. I was attracted to the person.
2. It feels good.
3. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.
4. Its fun.
5. I wanted to show my affection to the person.

The top five responses given by women were:

1. I was attracted to the person.
2. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.
3. It feels good.
4. I wanted to show my affection to the person.
5. I wanted to express my love for the person.

The answers given by both men and women are not all that surprising given the shape our society is in and given our society's perversion of almost everything sexual. Perhaps the only surprising aspect of this study is the answers given by women, which seem to refute the commonly held notions that men are generally seeking self-pleasure and women are seeking love. The survey suggests that both men and women are primarily seeking to satisfy their personal physical desires.

The top four reasons for men and the top three for women were self-serving motivations.

Intimacy with the sexual partner was rated at 12 for women and 14 for men.

Not surprising though was how far down on the list that pregnancy was listed as the motivation, given that the overwhelming number of those surveyed were sexually active single men and women who were in college.

Perhaps what was most interesting for me were the statistics regarding the number of men and women (average age 19) who testified to having a history of sexual intercourse. Less than half of the men surveyed had in their past participated in sexual intercourse (233 out of 503). 110 of the men surveyed affirmed sexual activity, but had not gone so far as sexual intercourse.

More than half of the women surveyed had experienced sexual intercourse (664 out of 1046). 246 of the women surveyed had in their past been involved in various sexual activities but had not had sexual intercourse.

I was surprised by how much more sexually active the women were as opposed to the men in this survey. In all of those surveyed, 88 percent had gone as far in their sexual experience to participate in oral sex.

Now here is the most depressing stat: 65 percent of those surveyed reported themselves to be Christians. With the amount of information given, it is impossible to determine if the Christian men and women surveyed were more or less likely to have participated in sexual activity outside of marriage, but with the high percentages (88%) of those who had at least gone as far as oral sex, it seems likely that many of the Christians surveyed fall into this percentage.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gluttony and Southern Baptists

The issue of gluttony in Southern Baptist circles has been discussed by some of late. There has even been a resolution or two sent to the resolutions committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in the past two years addressing this particular issue. However, the resolutions have failed to make it to the floor of the Convention by recommendation of the committee.

Baptist Press released an article yesterday titled Prof tries to help Baptists improve health, touching upon the issue of gluttony and its severe prevalence among Southern Baptist pastors. Jim Florence, Professor of Public Health at East Tennessee State University (my alma mater), and member of Calvary Baptist Church, Erwin, is aware of the growing trend of growing waistlines of Southern Baptist pastors and is currently working in his own local association to educate and assist pastors with this issue. One of Florence's own motivations for going into public health was the death of his brother by heart attack at 37.

The article also reports that a Purdue University study released in 2006 found that Southern Baptists are 30 times more likely to be obese than non-Christians, and are more obese than any other Christian denomination.

For some helpful information about your personal health, the following websites may be referenced (these are listed through the Tennessee Baptist Convention):

How though does a pastor address the issue of gluttony from the pulpit? When was the last time you heard a preacher address this issue on Sunday morning from a Southern Baptist church? Certainly much care needs to be used, but simply avoiding the issue because it will hurt peoples' feelings is not the proper choice either.

I recently listened to two messages on gluttony preached by Paul Matthies at The Village Church. You can find these two sermons in IPod by selecting Podcasts, Religion & Spirituality, The Village Church. They are sermons 37 and 38, Defeating Gluttony and Defining Gluttony. These sermons provide some clear thinking on gluttony, and may help you to think about the issue more comprehensively.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

San Antonio Convention in Review Part 6

The most controversial aspect of this year's Convention was the debate and vote concerning the motion made by Rick Garner concerning the BF&M 2000. The motion reads:

I move that this convention adopts the statement of the Executive Committee issued in February of this year, and included in the Executive's report found in the 2007 Book of Reports, page 17, which reads 'The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.'

The intent behind the motion was to prohibit trustees serving on SBC agencies from requiring additional theological agreements beyond those published and adopted in the BF&M 2000. The incident which started this protest/movement was first the adopting of two additional theological policies by the trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB).

The two additional policies prohibited from missionary service through the IMB anyone who practiced a Private Prayer Language, and anyone who did not meet four requirements concerning Baptism. Any potential IMB missionary had to meet the following criteria:

1. Baptism is for a believer.
2. Baptism is by immersion only.
3. Baptism is not regenerative.
4. Must have been baptized in a church which believes in eternal security.

The first three points are nearly universally agreed upon by all Southern Baptists today. However, the fourth point drew considerable protest.

In order for a Baptism to be legitimate does a local church have to be perfect in its theological views? If only on certain theological points, then who gets to decide which ones are necessary and which ones are not?

A considerable protest movement started due in no small part to one trustee of the IMB who protested the adoption of these policies. Skipping over a lot of incidents, the debate has turned into whether or not trustees ought to add additional theological positions which must be met and believed that go beyond the BF&M 2000 in order for a Southern Baptist to serve in any of the Southern Baptist Agencies?

There was not much time for debate on the motion due mostly to the way Convention politics and schedules work. So many people who wanted to speak to this motion were not able to be heard and a motion to extend the time of debate was defeated.

The motion passed with 2137 (57.7%) votes for and 1565 (42.2%) against. I voted against the motion for mainly one reason. I did not think this was the best way to correct the policies adopted by the IMB or guard against future policies which further restrict who can serve in our agencies.

As a few of the Presidents of our Seminaries pointed out, the BF&M 2000 is not a sufficient document in and of itself to govern exhaustively the process of hiring a potential professor. There are abundant issues which should be asked of potential teachers on issues of theology and ethics which are not addressed in the BF&M 2000. So in my interpretation of the motion made by Rick Garner, I believed we would have been putting the trustees in a impossible situation of hiring the best teachers without the necessary tools because we would be limiting what must be agreed upon by a potential employee to such an extent that it certainly would endanger them because of a higher risk of selecting someone who may disagree with most Baptists on ethical issues not addressed specifically in the BF&M 2000.

My thinking is this: The best way to combat particular policies is to address them each specifically. If one does not agree with the IMB policy prohibiting a Southern Baptist from serving through the IMB if he or she has a PPL then, put that issue alone to a Convention vote.
IF one does not like the baptism/eternal security issue, then change it by bringin it for a vote at the Convention.

Had each issue (PPL and Baptism/eternal security) been addressed specifically, then I would have been more inclined to vote against the IMB policies.

In light of the adoption of the motion, the leading figure in the protest has made it clear that his view is if Seminaries want to ask for further agreement on other issues when hiring new professors then let the Seminaries bring it before the Convention. However, this seems unfeasible to me. The Convention was not designed so that Seminaries could bring every potential hire before it and get permission for every single issue not addressed in the BF&M 2000.

However, some have pointed out that the motion could be interpreted in at least two ways. The protest movement inteprets the motion to say that the BF&M 2000 alone should be the trustees' guide, but others have pointed out that the motion does not state say the BF&M 2000 is the only guide for trustees.

So what now? What will come of this motion? I do not think anything really has changed. It seems clear from the messages of some of the presidents of the seminaries that they are going to continue to ask questions on more theological issues than just contained in the BF&M 2000, and will be looking for some type of agreement on those questions, which to some would be a violation of the motion adopted in San Antonio, but to others would be completely in harmony with the same motion adopted in San Antonio.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Online Book Sale

This Wednesday and Thursday all of John Piper's books will be on sale for 5 dollars a piece. Advertised on a Desiring God blog post. There is no limit to how many books you can purchase.

Friday, June 22, 2007

San Antonio Convention in Review Part 5

Here are some of my thoughts on my second Convention:

1. I thought the turnout was small. I believe Greensboro, North Carolina had a little less than 12,000 messengers. The 2007 San Antonio had fewer than 9,000. I figured since "everything is bigger in Texas," there would be a significant turnout. I believe those who organized the Convention thought so as well. I heard early on from one person who said they were expecting around 14,000 messengers. I am not sure what to think about next year's Convention in Indianapolis. One side of me thinks if significant debate continues then the turnout might be high because of the Presidential vote. However, Indiana is not the South. The state of Indiana tallied 73 messengers in San Antonio.

2. There was early debate over a definition recommended titled Definition of the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. The recommended definition reads: The Cooperative Program is a Southern Baptists' unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries. After some debate, the motion passed.

Many have asked the question that if we give directly to the National Convention entities such as the Seminaries, IMB, and NAMB through designated receipts instead of giving it through our state convention, then why can it not be counted as CP contributions? Many churches are unsatisfied with state conventions taking a majority share of the CP, and sending a lesser share to the National Convention.

Currently, our church gives 10% of its undesignated yearly receipts to the Cooperative Program through the South Carolina Baptist Convention. We also give an additional 1.5% to both the IMB and NAMB. However, since this money is designated, it does not count towards Cooperative Program contributions. Jon Akin has written a good article addressing this issue, titled Defining, Defending, or De-funding the CP.

3. While 8,618 messengers registered in San Antonio, only a small percentage voted in the elections. During the 1st Vice Presidential vote, only 3143 voted. Likewise during the 2nd Vice Presidential vote, only 2841 voted. Perhaps the most telling vote was over the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 vote (which I'll address later). For as much controversy and debate it received, only 3702 messengers voted. It certainly does not appear that many people even cared enough to show up for votes.

Monday, June 18, 2007

San Antonio Convention in Review Part 4

The first SBC event I attended was the Pastor's Conference on Monday night to listen Albert Mohler, Jimmy Draper, James Merritt, and Johnny Hunt.

Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave a testimoney about his recent health crises with respect to his eye surgery and his even more recent crisis with blood clots in his lungs. Dr. Mohler recently posted an article about his recent trials on his website. You can find the article here.

James Draper, Jr., former President of Lifeway, gave us a personal testimony about temptation when a young woman tried to initiate an affair in his days in the pastorate. Draper believed he was impervious to the temptation of an affair, but found himself excited that another woman would find him desirable, so he did not decisively deal with the situation and drew it out.

James Merritt, Pastor of Cross Pointe, the Church at Gwinneth Center and Johnny Hunt, Pastor of Woodstock Baptist Church, both preached excellent sermons on holiness and humility. I did not know what to expect from Dr. Hunt. I wondered if Calvinism would come up in his talk. It did not. Surprisingly, if any controversy arose it came from Dr. Merritt when he seemed to give full permission to pastors to use his father's day sermon on word for word if they so desired. This took me back somewhat. It also seemed that Hunt addressed this offer in his sermon when he spoke of the pastor's need to be led by the Spirit to write and preach the Lord's message for the church he pastors.

All in all, I believe Hunt's sermon was the best of the sermon's I had the priviledge to hear while in San Antonio.

San Antonio Convention in Review Part 3

Here are some day and night pics of the river which cuts through San Antonio. Mostly restaurants and a few stores line the Riverwalk. There was a CVS store on the Riverwalk. We frequented this establishment to purchase our drinks since they were excessively priced in our hotel (2.25 for a soft drink and 4.00 bottle water in the room).

The Riverboat tours were nice, but I would suggest that you either take the tour in the morning or in the late evening because the the 90+ temperatures.

San Antonio Convention in Review Part 2

Since this trip was also our vacation, we did not attend much of the Pastor's Conference on Monday. Instead, we took in many of the sights and sounds of San Antonio. Above, Naomi and I toured the Alamo which fortunately was directly across from our hotel.

San Antonio Convention in Review Part 1

My journey to the San Antonio Convention began with a trip to the Atlanta Airport where yours truly boarded an airplane for the first time. It was a pleasant experience and I am glad to have the flight as a part of my overall experience. However, getting to the airport 3 hours before departure (as the airlines suggest) translated for us into much time sitting around waiting for our flight to leave. This is the post 9-11 world in which we live, and security is well worth the wait.

Despite the largeness of the Atlanta Airport, I recognized two families there. I never cease to be amazed how in the midst of so many people how we can run into people we know who also do not live in Atlanta. We saw the Idell family from our home church in Tennessee who were on their way back from San Diego. Also, we flew on the same flight to San Antonio with the Moody's from 1st Baptist, Honea Path.

When we arrived in San Antonio, we were instructed by our Hotel staff to take a taxi because it was cheaper than the shuttles. So taking a taxi was another first for me. When we got into the taxi, the driver was playing rap music. He soon found out that we were in San Antonio for the Baptist Convention, he changed the station to classical music. I thought that was funny. Rap and classical are far from our preferences of music, but I did appreciate his consideration in changing the station.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency. The hotel was excellent. Our room was excellent and the lobby led right onto the Riverwalk, where we spent considerable time walking and eating. At the top of the page is the view from the top of our hotel of San Antonio.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Private Prayer Language

Just wondering about your thoughts on the recent Lifeway survey that suggests around half of all Southern Baptist pastors use or would be in agreement with a private prayer language? What is your prayer language? Do you plan on speaking about this in San Antonio next week, or are you going to be hanging out with Lebron and Tim Duncan? I have heard in the past that the Alamo Dome is a hard place to shoot in, do you know anything about that? By the way, my private prayer language is English, sometimes with a little Espanol mixed in.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Two New CD's

All the Lovely Losers by Jason Gray
I am not sure how to describe the genre of this album but the style is similar to Bebo Norman. My personal favorites are Blessed Be, Weak, This Far, The Cut, Into the Mystery, and You are Mercy.

Full Attention by Jeremy Riddle
This album contains many worship styled songs--songs with simple but foundational biblical lyrics. Riddle's style sounds much like Jeremy Camp. So if you like Camp's music, then you will greatly enjoy Full Attention. My favorites are God of All Glory, Hallowed Father, Sweetly Broken, God Moves in a Mysterious Way (new format of William Cooper's old hymn), and Stand in Awe.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Should Baptism Divide Us?

Dr. Greg Wills recently lectured and fielded questions on this topic at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he teaches Historical Theology. The title of his lecture is titled, Should the Water Divide Us? Baptism, Church Membership, and the Glory of Christ. Dr. Wills addresses the following three issues related to Baptism:

1. Is immersion essential to Baptism?
2. May we admit persons to church membership and the Lord's Supper who have not been immersed?
3. Does the administrator matter?

This is a timely address considering the many debates that have recently arisen in Baptist life such as Bethlehem Baptist Church's recent move in the direction (although not adopted to date) to allow for convinced Paedobaptists to join the church, the recent moves by some Baptist churches to accept believer's who were sprinkled instead of immersed into church membership, and the recent debate regarding the new IMB Baptism policy, specifically on the issue of whether or not a baptism is legitimate if the baptizing church did not endorse the doctrine of eternal security.

I will update the post with his answers after I listen to the address today.


Question 1.
Dr. Wills argues that when we enter into a mode debate we are unnecessarily giving ground away in the debate. Wills argues that baptism is the immersion of a believer in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore there is no other legitimate mode.

Question 2.
Dr. Wills argues that only those who have been properly baptized can be received into the local church membership and partake in the Lord's Supper. He says the one who has not been immersed or the one has never been baptized as a believer, or one who has misunderstood the doctrine of Baptism (those who claim Baptism is regenerative) are in unrepentant sin and therefore ought not be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper.

Question 3.
Wills says the administrator does matter. His personal view is that the ordinances should be administered by the recognized ministers of the local church. However he does not teach the illegitimacy of a baptism administered by a lay-person if the local church approves of it. He thinks it is unwise.

Wills aptly prefaces his address by saying that Baptism is not on the same level as other doctrinal issues, but he believes the doctrine is important as all teachings of Christ are important. We should strive to submit correctly to every commandment given by Scripture.

Wills does answer a question pointed at the IMB issue. He is not personally convinced of the necessity on the policy concerning eternal security, but he does believe the IMB has the right to adopt it. Furthermore, he says that if his own church adopted the same policy, he would submit to it.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Anything Worth Saying

I rarely turn on Christian music radio when I am on the road. Currently, my car's radio is not operational. So when I am driving in the 94 Accord I am listening to music or preaching on my iPod. However, if I am driving in my wife's Quest and I have the radio on, it usually is sportstalk station.

Last week I was on my way to get my wife's van serviced and I decided to try one of the local Christian music radio stations. I had one of those infrequent but spiritual highs upon hearing a special song for the first time. That song is titled My Savior My God, by Aaron Shust. I bought his album, Anything Worth Saying, today and I have not been disappointed with the rest of his work.

Aside from My Savior My God, I really like Stillness, More Wonderful, Give It All Away, Change the Way, and One Day. If you have not heard any of his music, check it out. He is currently on tour with Mercy Me and is about to release his sophmore album. You can find out more about Aaron Shust by visiting

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'm still bloggin

I missed you in Charlotte at the Empowered Church conference this weekend. It was great. There was a lot of solid preaching, which both encouraged, convicted, and refreshed me, and there was also some great breakout sessions. I will post on some of these sessions soon, and let you know what you missed.
Stay encouraged on your blogging. I appreciate the time that you put into this and enjoy reading your insights. Peace Out.

Book Review: God's Lesser Glory

Ware, Bruce A. God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000. 240pp. $17.99.

Bruce Ware's sensitivity is apparent early on in this book. Foremost for Ware is his sensitivity for the glory of God. Ware views Open Theism as a direct assault against God as it denies his exhaustive knowledge of the future, and as Ware demonstrates, would if true, dramatically lesson our confidence in God.

At the same time, Ware is sensitive to the authors whom he critiques. Ware says, "It is the views of this movement and its advocates that I oppose, not the individuals who advocate them (9)." Ware successfully avoids attacking the open theists themselves, and more importantly undermines the weaknesses in the exegesis and theology of the open theists.

Open Theism proposes that God voluntarily created this present universe with human beings who are free to make decisions regardless of whether they please God or not. Because human beings are created free, God does not know perfectly what the future holds. Open Theists believe that if God knows the decisions of mankind before they actually were made then somehow they would not be free decisions but predetermined by God.

The importance of God's Lesser Glory is significant because many open theologians including Boyd, Sanders, and Pinnock claim to be evangelical Christians. Subsequently, this means that each of these theologians sincerely believe the theologies they espouse are biblical. This point makes Ware's treatment of the subject all the more weightier.
The classical Christian understanding of God's exhaustive knowledge of past, present, and future and open theism, which denies God's exhaustive knowledge of the future, cannot both be true.

In God's Lesser Glory, Ware chiefly interacts with open theologians Gregory Boyd, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, and David Basinger. In chapters 2 & 3, Ware lays out the open theist position chiefly described by the theologians named above. Ware not only describes the theology of open theism but he also expresses the so-called applications and benefits this view of God brings to his people.

The driving contention of open theists, according to Ware is genuine relationship. Open theists reject God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future because it simply eliminates, according to them, any potential for an authentic interaction between God and mankind. Therefore open theists reject the idea that God decreed points about our lives in eternity past before we were born. Open theists also reject doctrines like irresistible grace. Any doctrine which impedes human freedom is rejected.

In chapter 2 & 3, Ware highlights some of the more prominent biblical texts used by open theists as evidence that God does not know the future. God’s comment of “now I know that you fear me,” to Abraham as he is about to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:10-12), God’s repenting of making Saul King of Israel (1 Samuel 15:11, 35), God’s changing of his mind about the descendants of Abraham with Moses (Exodus 32), and God’s word about how he thought Israel would turn back to him, but they did not (Jeremiah 3:6-7) are all discussed through the lens of open theology.

In the minds of the open theologians these texts demonstrate first, that God did not know if Abraham was willing to slay Isaac, therefore it was important for God to establish a test to see if Abraham was trustworthy. Second, open theists declare that God repents like man, therefore he has remorse about his own actions. Third, God can even be wrong about his understanding about what will take place in the future.

Ware even makes note how some open theologians believe that God knew it was a possibility that Adam and Eve could choose to sin, but considering all that God did for them, it was not probable. Furthermore Sanders, as quoted by Ware (46-47) suggests that Jesus’ death on the cross was not fully known by God until after the prayer in Gethsemane.

Ware goes on to show that in the minds and hearts of open theists, the implication of God not knowing the future helps with ministering to hurting people. Ware gives a lengthy example given by Boyd (56-58). But the question that arises in this reader’s mind is: how is it helpful to me to know that God does not know the future and that he is either unwilling or unable to sovereignly counter the choices of his sinful creatures?

From this point in the book, Ware scripturally demonstrates the teaching of God’s perfect knowledge of the future, the very thing open theists claim the Bible teaches otherwise. Ware primarily accomplishes this by diving into the teachings of Isaiah in chapters 40-48. Through many examples (42:9, 44:6-8, 44:24-28, 45:1-7), it becomes clear that God’s claim to being God is inextricably tied to his knowledge of the future. For example, God says in Isaiah 42:9, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Ware does move on to other areas in Scripture which also teach God’s exhaustive knowledge of future events. He cites examples from other OT passages like Psalm 139:4, 16 where God is ascribed to have the knowledge to know the number of our days before there is even one. How can this be true under the Open Theism model where God cannot know the future actions of free human beings, decisions that might lead to one’s death?

Ware gives NT examples which ascribe to God the son, Jesus Christ a knowledge which open theists declare he cannot have. In John 16:4, Jesus clearly tells his disciples things that will befall them before they happen. Again, is this so because God is great with odds, or because he really does know the future? Most of us who are familiar with the Bible will quickly recall Jesus’ accurate prophecy concerning Peter’s threefold denial. Again, how can Jesus know how many times Peter will deny him, and in addition to this, know when he will deny him?

There are further texts which speak in favor of the classical position. Texts like Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28 clearly teach a predetermined plan, known to God of Jesus’ death. Ware addresses both these as well, in addition to other texts, but Ware does not stop here. He moves on to describe how this theology assaults the wisdom of God. Instead of a God who knows all things, you have a God who can only predict. But in his predictions, as argued by open theists, he can be wrong. As Boyd illustrates in his story back in pages 56-58, God can lead people down a path which he thinks will benefit them in the future, but at any given time, his calculations may prove damaging, and somehow this is supposed to be comforting.

As Ware goes on to say in chapters 7-9, this theology does not drive us to exalt God. Nor does this theology help us to take comfort in God. Open theism diminishes our view of God. The picture of God we see in Open Theism is more like a really wise man rather than a God. The picture we get of God in Open Theism is not the God described in Romans 8:28

Here is the crux of the argument in my mind. It comes down to weighing all the relevant texts. Christians need to honestly weigh the difficult texts in Scripture. We need to seriously consider those difficult texts raised by open theists. But we also need to take the vast amount of texts which undeniably speak of God’s perfect knowledge of the future and consider them. Then we must try to reconcile them if we can. My sympathies are with Ware. I believe the overwhelming support favors the classical view of God. This also means that my explanations might be a little more complicated when dealing with texts like Genesis 22 and 1 Samuel 15. Nevertheless it seems clear to me that the Bible teaches God's perfect knowledge of the future, and if we surrender this truth, we end up with an altogether different God than the one revealed in Scripture. This also is the conclusion Ware comes to as well. He says in conclusion on page 230, “We have here, then, a fundamentally different god, not merely a different version of God. For the sake of the glory that is God’s alone we have no choice but to reject the openness model.”

I highly recommend this text for pastors. While it is not common to meet open theists in my neck of the woods as they say, it never hurts to be prepared. In addition to this, the book is helpful in its analysis of some of the difficult texts raised by open theists. Readers might also want to follow up God’s Lesser Glory by Ware with God’s Greater Glory also by Ware as he lays out a systematic presentation of the doctrine of God’s providence.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Lost Tomb of Jesus...Here are some problems

Here is my attempt to synthesize many of the criticisms that have been levied against the Documentary film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Much of the information presented here comes from Ben Witherington and Richard Bauckham, as noted in the end notes.

Claim #1--The tenth ossuary is lost.

Based on this claim, the filmmakers suggest that the recent ossuary purchased on the market (not unearthed from a tomb) which had the inscription James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus could be a likely candidate as the missing tenth Talpiot ossuary. James Tabor even goes on to say that the measurements of the missing ossuary and the measurements of the known James ossuary are a match.


1. Amos Kloner and Joe Zias who were both archaeologists who worked the original site of the 10 ossuaries in 1980. Both have categorically denied that the 10th ossuary is missing.[1]

2. Furthermore, both archaeologists have stated that the tenth ossuary was blank with no ornamental designs or any inscriptions of names.[2] This is important because the James ossuary has an inscription.

Claim #2—The James ossuary was purchased around the same time the Talpiot tomb was discovered (1980).

Relatively speaking, perhaps this is true, but preciseness is very important here. If it could be proven that the James ossuary was purchased before the 1980 Talpiot tomb discovery then the claim would surely be put to rest.


1. Oded Golan (who purchased the James ossuary) has consistently said that he purchased the James ossuary before 1978 when Israeli laws changed.[3]

2. Oded Golan, in fact said he purchased it in the mid-70’s.[4]

3. In addition to this, in his ongoing trial, evidence has been produced which shows Golan with the James ossuary in a picture dated to the seventies.[5]

This is important because the Talpiot Tomb was not discovered until 1980 making it impossible for the James ossuary to have come from it. In light of this evidence, the patina test comparing the molecules contained on both the James ossuary and ossuaries coming from the Talpiot Tomb becomes less meaningful. Ted Koppel even produced a quote from the lab clarifying that the patina test alone does not prove that the ossuaries came from the same tomb.

Furthermore, it has been noted by many that the spikes did not align precisely in the film (I noticed this as well).

Claim #3: The Jose ossuary is compelling because it is rare and there is biblical evidence which suggests that Jesus had a brother who was called Joses (Mark 6:3).

While it is true that Jesus had a brother who was called Joses in the Gospel according to Mark, it is also true that the Gospel according to Mark also records another Joses (Mark 15) who was not Jesus’ brother. So while it might be rare to find this name on an ossuary, apparently it is not so rare that two Joses were running around together within Jesus own followers.

Claim #4: Jesus, son of Joseph is Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph

A further question needs to be asked. The assumption by the filmmakers is that Jose is Jesus’ brother. If so, why would Jesus be the only brother distinguished as Jesus son of Joseph? Jose is not distinguished this way. It is merely Jose. Jesus own followers did not identify Jesus as “Jesus, son of Joseph.” If any of the two brothers should have had son of Joseph scripted by it if this were Jesus of Nazareth’s family tomb then it would have been Jose, not Jesus.

Matt 1:16 (NASU) Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

Mark 5:7 (NASU) and shouting with a loud voice, he ^said, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"

Hebr 4:14 (NASU) Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession

Luke 3:23 (NASU) When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,

His critics call him the son of Joseph in (exception in John 1:45)

John 6:42 (NASU) They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, `I have come down out of heaven'?"

Mark 6:3 (NASU) "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him.

The claim that this is Jesus of Nazareth comes from the combination of the names and its location coupled with statistics. But as we shall see it is one big chain of speculation that cannot withstand scrutiny.

Claim #5: Maria was the styled and common name of Jesus’ mother.

Problem 1. Yet in the earliest texts to the time of Jesus (Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) Mariam is used just as often as Maria with reference to Jesus’ mother. In fact, Mariam is used of Mary the mother of Jesus more than Maria.

Claims #6-7: The Mariamenou-Mara ossuary belongs to Mary Magdalene. Mariamne is rare, and there is a connection to Mary Magdalene.

This will be the most technical debate involving all the arguments made by the film.


1. Mary Magdalene IS NEVER referred to in the earliest gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) as Mariamene/Mariamne. She is always identified as Maria and Mariam Magdalene.

Why is this important? Because these particular gospels were written by individuals who lived in the same time period with Jesus and who knew Mary Magdalene.

Mariam—Hebrew name This name was most commonly translated in Greek as Maria and Mariame/Mariamme[6]

One of the major criticisms of the film is the way the producers talk about Mary Magdalene within Christian tradition. Many of the examples which are used in this film are not grounded within universally accepted Christian tradition but are found in Gnostic traditions. Gnostics are people who took some principles from the Bible and perverted its teachings to fit there own ideology. They would also use some of the characters from the Bible and tell apocryphal stories to further illustrate the perverted doctrines they believed.

In the film they allude to competing understandings of Christianity, and that the Catholic Church won out, thus they stamped out or tried to stamp other legitimate forms of Christianity. The church combating perverse theologies is nothing new. The Apostles themselves, as demonstrated in Scripture had to at nearly every turn combat some false teaching.

All of this is to say that these “Christian traditions” as used in the documentary are called apocryphal and Gnostic for reasons. They are unhistorical stories using biblical names. They are also false teachings. It is within Apocryphal and Gnostic traditions where Mary Magdalene’s name is eventually transformed from Maria/Mariam to Mariame/Mariamme.


1. Celsus—a strident critic of Christianity spells her name Mariamme (3rd century)

2. Gospel of Mary: Mariamme (3rd Century)

3. Sophia of Jesus Christ: Gnostic work spells it Mariamme[7]

Hippolytus appears to be the first writer to refer to Mary Magdalene with a spelling of Mariamne (with the ‘n’) in his work called Refutation of all Heresies (note the title).[8] Hippolytus is refuting false claims made about Mary Magdalene, similar myths propagated by the Lost Tomb of Jesus/Divinci Code theorists.

Dr. Tabor mentioned Hippolytus’ work on the critical segment of the show in defense of the name, Mariamne but he said Hippolytus’ work was 2nd century, however it was written between 228-233 making it 3rd century (even farther from the time of Jesus).[9]

In addition to this scholars are unsure whether Hippolytus himself wrote it that way because there are two manuscript chains flowing from the original and one has Mariamme and the other has Mariamne, so Mariamne may be even a later development in the 3rd century.[10]

Dr. Richard Bauckham believes the name Mariamne is a late deformation of the name Mariamme by users who were not familiar with the name (it was rarely used after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD). The filmmakers also put forth the Acts of Philip as another source where the rare Mariamne is used for Mary Magdalene. Again, here is the major problem. The Acts of Philip dates to the 4th-5th century (hundreds of years beyond the time of Jesus). And it is universally accepted as Apocryphal, that is an unhistorical account using Biblical characters including Mary Magdalene. So while the filmmakers are technically correct to link the name Mariamne to Mary Magdalene. It can only be established as a link to a time period hundreds of years beyond the time period the historical Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And as Dr. Bauckham has demonstrated, the name was most likely a corruption of the name Mariamme by later Greek speakers who were unfamiliar with the name.

Therefore, there is ZERO EVIDENCE that Mary Magdalene was ever called Mariamne by her contemporaries. All the evidence points to Maria/Mariam Magdalene being the name she was addressed by when speaking with 1st century Jews and Gentiles.

2. Is there really a direct connection with Mariamne (Acts of Philip, Hippolytus) with the name written on the ossuary itself, that is mariamenou? The Discovery Channel Filmmakers are equating the two presumably by contraction (Mariamene contracts to Mariamne). I say presumably because they never say, and they were never asked. Why is this important? Because the inscription Mariamenou does not come from Mariamne, but Mariamenon/Mariamene.[11]

Therefore, if Mariamne is not contracted from Mariamene as Bauckham suggests, then there is not even a connection between this inscription and the Acts of Philip anyway (even though we have already demonstrated how weak that point was).

Claim #7: Mariamenou-mara should be translated as “belonging to Mary or the Master.”

The filmmakers suggest that Mara in Aramaic means Master (maranatha; see 1 Corinthians 16:22), and we affirm this point. But did not the filmmakers say that this box alone was inscribed in Greek unlike the rest of the boxes which were inscribed in Aramaic?

Rahmani suggests that the box could be translated instead of “belonging to Mary or the Master” as “belonging to Mary who {was also called} Mara (short for Martha). It was not uncommon for a person to have a Greek name (Mariamene) and an Aramaic one (Mara).[12]

Misc. Criticisms
As I have shown already, the statistical argument is shallow once you take Matthew and Mary Magdalene out of the equation. Furthermore, we have no evidence that the Maria ossuary in this Tomb is the mother of the man identified as Jesus, son of Joseph. We have no evidence that Jose was the brother of the man identified as Jesus, son of Joseph. Statistics are only as good as the formula, and the formula presented in this documentary is rampant with gross speculation.

The DNA evidence only proved that Mariamenou-Mara was not maternally related to Jesus, son of Joseph. She could have been a half-sister from their father’s side. She could have been an aunt from his father’s side. She could have been a cousin from his father’s side, etc….

There is the claim also that the beloved disciple was not John the Apostle, but a son of Jesus through Mary Magdalene. And this was linked to the ossuary inscribed “Judah, son of Jesus.” John makes abundantly clear the purpose of Jesus’ words was to incite John the Apostle (historic understanding for the identity of the beloved disciple) to take Jesus’ mother into his own household and care for her, which the texts says he did (John 19). Yet the filmmakers said this could have been Jesus speaking to his own blood son. But did you notice the Judah, son of Jesus ossuary? It was for an infant or child. It makes no sense for Jesus to say this to a child, why? Because a child cannot take care of himself let alone his mother.

Theological Note: Dr Tabor made the point that he believes the Bible does not endorse a physical resurrection. And he alludes to 1 Corinthians 15:35. The historic Catholic/Protestant understanding of Scripture affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is an attempt to understand Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 Spiritual does not equate to the opposite of physical. Paul is not saying the body will not be physical, but it will be wrought by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 2:13).[13]

The spiritual are those who have been born again, and are being changed by the Spirit into conformity to Christ through sanctification.

Reflect on Romans 8:11 Roma 8:11 (NASU) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Reflect on John 20:24-28 Thomas put his hands in the physically resurrected body. The earliest accounts make abundantly clear that Jesus body was gone (Matt 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:22-23; John 20:12).

[1] Ben Witherington,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ricahrd Bauckham,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Anthony C. Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, NIGTC, 1276-1281. See also Denny Burk,